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Waterloo - First Battle CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.48 | 33 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars One of the rarest (and most expensive) vinyls of Belgium, First Battle is also Waterloo's only battle, but they won it brilliantly. This quintet was made from the remains of two established groups, Adam's Recital and Today's Version (the former even managing a spot in the Windsor Festival) and soon enough Waterloo was born in October 69. After a few months composing and touring, their album was recorded in Soho during the Christmas break and released early the next year with a Napoleon-ian artwork on the French label Vogue, where the group would tour extensively along with Belgium.

Sonically Waterloo is a mix of short (under 4-mins) psych rock and jazzy proto-prog tracks (except for the 11-mins finale), often reminiscent of jazzier early Tull albums (especially This Was). Opening on the single Meet Again (which through an amazing succession of feats got some major French airplay under the Waterloo moniker from an unknown group), but it is hardly the album's best piece with its 60's aura, even if you can hear Malyster's Emerson influence on organ. Much stronger are the superb Why May I Not Know with some heavy Anderson-ian flute, which coupled with Malyster's organ could lead to think of Aqualung tracks and the frantic Black-Born Children with its constant breaks. Further down the album (past the bluesy Problems), the dramatic Wrong Neighbourhood and the hard- rocking Heep-ian Lonesome Road are also much worthy of the proghead's attention. Of course the alnum's cornerstone is the lengthy Diary Of An Old Man, which an awesome progressive jazzy blues rock track with plenty of excellent solos and interplay between all concerned, but particularly Roan's guitar, but Bogaert's flute has its Tull-ian say as well.

Some bonus tracks are tagged on the original album, and they consist of the non-album singles that were following or preceding the First Battle release, but most feature a changed line-up as Malyster and Janssens leaving and being replaced by Wuyts (ex- Wallace Collection) and Musette respectively, and the addition of saxman and bookstore owner Van Rymenant, thus creating a slight jazzier shift in the group's sound. If Plastic Man and Smile are very 60's bubblegum, Nobody But You gives a slight brassy ELP feel, at least in its first part, before very Colosseum-like. Clearly the major gift in these bonus tracks is the 7-mins+ Youngest Day, an outstanding prog track that shows that the group was sliding towards their future Pazop-style of fusion. The Heep-ian Bobo's Dream (reminiscent of Gypsy and Hensley in some ways) and Bad Time show that the band was ready to move further into uncharted territories.

Long available on the great Musea label (and maybe long OOP), Waterloo's only album now receives a Guerssen label release with the same bonus tracks as before and the same group's history texts, courtesy of Musea's Francis Grosse. Singer Bogaert, drummer Mauser and keyboardist Wuyts would surface two years later in Pazop and record another superb album (but apparently never-released), this one still available on the Musea label. Much worth it, if you're into late-60's & early-70's proto-prog.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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